BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman has a lot of ideas to keep troubled kids from “exploding” into the sort of violent rage that has led to a number of school shootings in recent years.
In an interview with The Tattoo, the former Democratic vice presidential candidate said many steps could be taken to help prevent violence in schools.
“There’s not a single solution” to school violence, the Connecticut Democrat said recently.
He said he’s had “a long-term concern regarding the violence in the entertainment culture” and its effect on young people.
Lieberman said he wants to clarify ratings labels on things such as video games, music, movies, and television shows so that youngsters and parents will know what they’re buying.
With some mixed-up young people, Lieberman said, media mayhem “sometimes gives them the idea of solving things with violence.”
Among his many concerns about the effects of violence on teens, he said, is rap music.
“I can’t claim expertise on rap music, but some of it is over the edge in terms of bigotry and violence to women,” he said.
However, “most of the songs I’ve heard come with, I wouldn’t say poetry, but it has a message,” he added.
The type of rap music he’s especially concerned with is ‘gangsta’ rap, he said, “the music that don’t even get played on the radio stations because it’s so violent in nature.”
Don’t get the wrong impression, though, he said he’s not trying to stop any artist or musician from expressing himself freely through music.
“I wouldn’t want to be in the position to censor [that music],” he noted. He did say, however, that pressure on the companies that produce and sell recordings that promote violence is fair game.
Lieberman said he believes that the violence shown on television “does tend to make kids numb” to violence in real life.
The more vulnerable kids, the senator said, “are encouraged to act” violently by what they see. “It’s not good for anybody,” he said.
Studies done about the kids who opened fire on their schools show “the sad and troubling fact” that many of them were “almost addicted to some kind of violent entertainment,” Lieberman stated.
Besides addressing violence in forms of media, the senator also thought of some other solutions to stop school shootings.
Lieberman said one key is keeping guns out of the hands of kids.
He said, too, that “we have to try to invest some more money in guidance counselors and psychiatrists in schools,” who can lend a hand when students need help, he said.
“When you see a kid with troubles, you come in with counseling rather than wait until the child might explode,” Lieberman said.
Guidance counselors might be good for getting children to express their woes, but parents also need to take a strict and active role with their children, Lieberman said.
Lieberman said that parents need “to exercise some kind of influence, if not control, over what their kids are listening to [and watching].”
Parents can be the first line of defense in preventing their teenagers or younger children from getting a gun or being influenced by the wrong group of people, he said.
Lieberman spoke with The Tattoo during a tour of Connecticut diners and newspapers in late August.
Mike Nguyen is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.